Instant Ramen: How a Simple Cup of Noodles Can Expand a Palate

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again


Growing up, I loved Maruchan’s Instant Ramen noodles in a cup, specifically the shrimp flavor. I loved how they were portable, cheap and easy to make—just pour boiling water over them and wait for them to cook. Salt and pepper were the only seasonings I used to enhance my ramen. Though they weren’t much, I felt like that perfect duo took my noodles to another level. 

More Noodles.

All that changed when I entered high school. One day at lunch, the usual massive line of cool kids ditched the packaged, unflavored school lunch for ramen noodles in a cup. Displayed on the microwave table near the lunch table was an array of spices and flavorings beyond my trusted salt and pepper: Latin brands of hot sauce and a green bottle of squeezable lemon juice. My eyes widened as I watched my peers douse their noodles with these spicy, sour ingredients. My friend, who stood next to me, even sprinkled a few Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on her noodles. I quickly became curious about trying it on my own unflavored cup. 

After studying peers who went before me, I followed suit and added a good amount of hot sauce and lemon juice. I stirred the noodles around slowly to ensure that every noodle was equally coated, with specks of hot sauce floating around the broth. 

Array of instant ramen noodles
Matt Chriss / Unsplash

I twirled the noodles with my plastic fork and took a bite. My world turned into that scene from Ratatouille where Remy discovered flavor combinations for the very first time. The saltiness from the broth was balanced nicely with the acidity of the lemon juice. The hot sauce tingled on my tongue right after saltiness and acidity dissipated. From that moment, I was a convert. 


As I’ve gotten older, I've discovered many methods to dress my instant ramen: sauteed garlic pepper prawns, fried sunny side up eggs, teriyaki salmon skewers with sesame seeds—I’ve tried them all. Elevating this simple cup of noodles, so familiar and comfortable, offered a permission for curiosity and ways to explore more new flavor combinations—with the exception of the sprinkled Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on my ramen. I don’t think I'll ever be convinced to try that.